Daughters Only: The Stigma and the Cure
I am on Facebook, looking at my newsfeed. As I scroll down, I notice a friend’s post in which she thanks God for the birth of her “prince”. She had three daughters before finally getting a son. So she cannot help but celebrate her boy. I go to the comments and read. Another friend writes in Cameroon Pidgin English: “You should thank God that you have given birth to your husband’s successor. If you didn’t get a son your husband would have sent you parking from that marriage.”
In Cameroon, a male child is usually referred to as the “chop chair” of his father. This means he is the fit child to succeed his father. But female children are rarely accorded this position.
When a woman gives birth to a female child, the child is not as valued as when she gives birth to a male. So a woman who finally gets a son after two or more daughters feels like she has walked right into light after darkening moments of daughters only.
My pen is eager to talk about this “daughter only syndrome” that many have been erroneously coined a cankerworm. It is one of those issues that I do not only witness but also experience.
I gave birth to my second daughter and was enjoying her ravishing beauty when my brother-in-law’s wife phoned me and said: “We hear you are only giving birth to girls.” As a typical African woman, she expressed her disappointment in me for bringing forth a female child again instead of a “chop chair” for my husband.
This is where violence against women starts- right from when the girl is born. She is under looked, undervalued and unwanted.
Society pressurizes her mother to subsequently bring forth a son and be a “real woman”. Some women get pregnant again rapidly and their hope is, “It’s a boy this time.”
Then with panting hearts, they wait for the news….Nope! It’s a girl again. They are disappointed and desperate. They are likely to ill treat their God-sent queen. Other women make them feel inadequate. They develop an inferiority complex especially in front of those who are “proud” mamas of strong boys.
They do not lose hope. They produce a chain of female children in their quest for males. From one female child to the next their hope diminishes. In the end they are stuck with daughters only.
Their husbands take in second wives who can bear them sons. After suffering verbal abuse for their incapacity to produce sons they have to battle it out with competitive co-wives.
Some visit witch doctors in sought of a supernatural power that can cleanse their wombs and enable them to produce “real” children.
Is it not obvious? The stigma that has been attached to women bearing just daughters has lots on harmful effects. I call this the “accepted madness”.
Even hospitals in Cameroon are realizing the red light this brings and they are putting a STOP sign to it.
One of such is the Mbingo Baptist Health Center in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala. This was my venue for an ultrasound during my first pregnancy. I understood the medical benefits of having my womb viewed under the radiologist’s lenses.
But I was also eager to know if I will be having a boy or a girl so that I could plan to buy blue stuff or pink stuff. However, the medical specialist declined to reveal the baby’s sex to me. I was disappointed but I got her point.
According to a midwife that taught us at the ante-natal class in this same hospital, they began refusing to unveil baby’s sexes to mothers because of the negative reactions put up by those who badly wanted boys and were frustrated when the medical images revealed they were carrying girls.
She said a lot of women became downcast when they were told they were carrying girls and not boys as they wanted. And carrying that feeling of rejection towards a baby is not good for the wellbeing of the child.
The maternal health workers at the Mbingo Baptist Health Centre strongly believe in the well-known Pidgin English saying, “Pikin na pikin”. This means “every child is valuable no matter the sex.”
According to the Huffington Post, a Nigerian baby factory uncovered months ago in the Southeastern region of the country sold boys for more money than girls.
Still in this report by the Huffington Post, Nigerian ex-judge Oby Nwankwo said, “Widows and daughters have faced massive obstacles when trying to inherit family resources after the death of a patriarch.”
This explains why women/girls feel disadvantaged. They do not enjoy the same privileges as men/boys.
Well, I am from a typical African society and I know for sure that a girl is not a less important child. Yes, I will like to have a son in the future but that’s not because I feel handicapped as a girls-only mom. It is because I want a taste of both sexes. I am not seeking for some approval from the propagators of this “accepted madness.”
If bearing only girls is a crime, then let me be the culprit. If they think it makes a mom inferior, well it only makes me superior.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama has two daughters. Are they not cute? Is Michelle Obama in any way handicapped because she bore only girls? The answer is an emphatic, “No!”
Our culture has continuously sold the idea of boys being better than girls and unfortunately, many mothers are buying it.
It is time to change this weird line of thinking. Let us celebrate our daughters from when they are in our wombs, to when they are born till when they grow up.
Let us flaunt and flaunt them until those who believe in boys as the better kids will become envious.
My daughter just held me and she told me in her cute little voice, “Mummy, I love you.” I know… daughters are really sweet.
“Pikin na pikin and girl pikin na better pikin!” (Each child is special and girls are super special)